Looking for a thrill ride when making your own soap? Then cold-process soap making is for you!
For me, making soap is 75% skill and 25% chance. While I always give soap making my best effort there are seemingly factors beyond my control that will give my soap the ‘wow’ factor or the ‘urgh’ verdict. Even soap recipes that I have made multiple times can turn into an exercise of humility.
I have learned, however, that there a few simple things that you can do to mitigate those major disappointments. Here are my five tips:
- Research the fine detail – It takes much longer to create a recipe than it does to actually make it. Selecting the ingredients, the volume to fit your mold and running it all through Soapcalc is just one part of the process. Deciding on design, fragrance, colour and botanicals is another, but through researching each component of your plan and ingredients you can anticipate issues ahead. This is where I find product reviews from other soapers to be a huge help, they flag issues such as fragrance acceleration, longevity and morphing of colour – take note!
- Document everything – this is my most important tip. I promise that everything you document will be useful. I use the binder method but you can choose many options. I document the recipe and specific ingredients, technique, date, unmold time, size of mold, temperature etc. Basically, I de-brief fully in my notes. I also include a photo of the soap. I am a nurse and go by that old nursing adage “if you didn’t document, it didn’t happen”. Also, this is a great way to track your progress.
- Substitute carefully – there will be times when you’re inspired to make a certain soap recipe but don’t have all of the ingredients; fair enough, but substitute with caution. If you are looking to substitute oils or butters then I would refer to Bramble Berry’s Oil Substitution Guide, this is my go-to resource. When it comes to replacing colourants, essential oils and fragrance oils things can get tricky. If you want exactly what is in the recipe then take the time to test your colour and fragrance in a mini batch first. If you are willing to create your own version of the recipe, then research as best as you can and go for it!
- Preparation is critical – soap makers can benefit from the mantra of French chefs! Mise en place is a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, mixed, etc. before you start soaping. Molds are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. Many soapers have forgotten or added the wrong fragrance because they have too many things on the table, also, stick to one batch at a time!
- Reduce your stress – finally, like cooking, soaping is meant to be savoured. Relax, restrict your distractions, set aside more time that you need, put on some good music and enjoy the process – you will have a better outcome!
Take heart! There are times when we think we have made the ultimate disaster soap only to discover that the cut soap is fabulous. Save your reservations until the end and if you do have a less than perfect product on your hands – make notes, take a deep breath, collect your patience and try again. It’s all part of the thrill ride! -C-